The war in Syria escalates with the brutal killing of 32 children
The President and his First Lady... and their people
He is the President; she is the First Lady; they are dead children. He governs but doesn't protect; she shops and doesn't care; they will never grow old. His father was an autocrat; hers a Harley Street doctor; theirs are bereaved. He will sleep in his bed tonight; so will she; they will be in their graves. However you conjugate the lives of the Syrian leader and his people, there is something very wrong.
Two days ago, they were all alive. He and she in their gilded residence, looking much as they do in this photograph - he sharp-suited, she sun-glassed and with a watch of gold on her wrist. The children were in their ramshackled homes in Houla, poor but alive. Then the men of war came. When they left, the children were as you see them here in this, the most grotesque picture yet to emerge from this land of the alleged ceasefire.
There are still photographs of this scene, and video. And over the footage that would bear more than enough testimony to the redundant regime of Assad, the voice of a man can be heard screaming. "These are all children!" he cries, shrill with angry despair, "Watch, you dogs, you Arabs, you animals – look at these children, watch, just watch!"
And one hopes that those on the United Nations Security Council, when it reconvenes, will look into the staring eyes of these dead children and remember the hollow words of Assad's wife when she simpered that she "comforts the families" of her country's victims.
From the editor...
By publishing this extremely upsetting image (second picture in the gallery, above), we may shock many readers. You may think we are guilty of bad taste. But we believe that – rarely – we need to be shocked. We need to consider the international community's failure to protect these children.
We decided to use the image on page three rather than on the front – though with a page one alert – to allow parents to consider whether their children should see it. To those who believe we are wrong to publish, or – conversely – should have published the image on the front page, we hope you accept that we have taken this option for the right reasons.
John Mullin, IoS Editor